One of the common misconceptions pushed in the media is that Arctic sea ice simply “melts in place”. Much of this is due to the constant hammering of the AGW meme that the “warming in the Arctic” is the primary cause. Here is one of my favorite misconception lines from this WIRED Science article:
With arctic sea ice melting like ice cubes in soda, scientists want to protect a region they say will someday be the sole remaining frozen bastion of a disappearing world.
It is not difficult to imagine how many would think that Arctic ice is “melting like ice cubes in soda” when you see temperature anomaly maps like this one from GISS:
GISTEMP 11-12-08 – Click for larger image
The public (and sometime the media too) often mistakes these for “absolute” temperature and the colors give the impression of a “toasty” area around the arctic, when in fact the temperatures there are mostly below the freezing point. In contrast to that what looks like a heat wave in the Arctic, we have this NASA JPL study that suggests winds may play a key role in pushing Arctic sea ice into lower latitudes where it melts. The author suggests winds may be the dominant factor in the 2007 record low ice extent:
Nghiem said the rapid decline in winter perennial ice the past two years was caused by unusual winds. “Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic,” he said. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters.
Interestingly we can now watch this actually happen thanks to an animation of AMSER-E satellite 89Ghz sounder images. Koji Shimada of JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology ). See the animation below (note- size is 7.1 MB, this may take awhile to fully load):
If you want more detail, a full sized Video animation is available here as a flash video or here as an AVI file (highest quality 7.3 MB) A hat tip to WUWT commenter Bill and to Thomas Homer-Dixon for this video.
What is interesting about this video is that you can watch sea ice being flushed out of the Arctic sea and pushed along Greenland’s east coast, where it then finds its way into warmer waters and melts. Also note how in the lower right, in the Beaufort sea, older multiyear ice gets fractured and broken up as winds and currents stress it.
While indeed we can watch some of the Arctic sea “melt in place” during this animation in the fall of 2007, we can also see that winds and currents are a signifcant contributor to breaking up the sea ice and transporting it to warmer latitudes.